Woza Moya – A Beacon in South Africa’s HIV / AIDS Pandemic – Part 1

Woza Moya – A beacon in South Africa’s HIV / AIDS Pandemic

Woza Moya. It just rolls sweetly off the tongue and means “Come spirt of change” in isiZulu. (IsiZulu is the language of the Zulu South Africans usually living on the East side of South Africa).

Woza Moya Logo

So what is Woza Moya?

It is lifeline of support and hope to hundreds, (thousands if you include their dependents), of otherwise desperate people whilst masquerading as a beautiful little craft shop. Although specialising in traditional beadwork they also sell all types of African art and craft from painting, sewing, wirework, crochet, pottery, fabric painting and woodwork through to repurposing and upcycling waste to make beautiful products.


Ally browsing in Woza Moya

Ally browsing in the Craft Shop


fabric dolls at woza moya craft shop

A few of the many hand-made products


Dark Times in Modern South Africa

Why is it so important to so many people? Well at the end of the last century HIV/AIDS was rife in South Africa. It was a taboo subject that nobody would talk about and there was almost no access to anti-viral drugs. People were dying in their thousands. Children were left without parents and only a few lucky ones had grandparents to look after them. A very dark time for all modern South Africa.

Woza Moya creates jobs and income for so many HIV/AIDS sufferers as well as fundraising for the AIDS Centre, and brings hope to them and their dependents. The beaders work from home, buying supplies at cost from Woza Moya, and create beautiful beaded craft items. They then bring these products to the Hillcrest AIDS Centre once a week to be sold on in the Woza Moya craft shops, with a small mark-up. It empowers them to earn a living from crafts they make.


Smiling Woza Moya Staff

Paula and Zandi – always really helpful and friendly

Colourful Zulu Skills and Photography

In this post we’re going to concentrate on the craft shops. Not far from Durban there are three – Hillcrest, Botha’s Hill and Kloof. We met Paula who is the manager of the centre and she allowed us to take photographs throughout our visit. Lungile took the time to show us around and explain it all to us. The indoor photography was very simple from a technical point of view. The only issues that you might come across in these situations is the bright sunlight streaming through windows. The easiest thing to do is to avoid it or shoot multiple exposures and comp them together. See our post on Exposure Compensation for more details. But back to the more important part of this post. The people, their skills and passion, and desire for a better future.


Lungile in Woza Moya with the products

Lungile – who showed us around


We’d like to tell you more about the incredible beading. Beading is a traditional Zulu skill passed down through generations. It’s normally threaded onto cotton or wire to make the most amazing products from tiny little badges through to Africa’s first fully beaded suit! In Cape Town last year, we even saw a fully covered beaded military vehicle!!


Traditional African beadwork at Woza Moya

Beautiful beaded bracelets


The Dream Chair

In 2009 the Woza Moya crafters attended a body mapping workshop where it was found that due to having lived in poverty for so long, very few of them had dreams. They were encouraged to ‘bead their dreams’. With the pieces that were received, the ‘Dream Chair’ came to life. The dream chair journeyed around the world and a book was made of people dreaming their dreams, which is for sale by the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust.


Dreams for Africa Chair – Image courtesy of Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust


Woza Moya manager Paula

Paula Thomson – Executive Manager and Craft Co-ordinator of Woza Moya


Little Travellers

The trademark item of Woza Moya is the Little Traveller. They were the brainchild of Thandiwe, one of the original patients from the Hillcrest AIDS centre. These tiny people can magically attach themselves to people’s clothing and travel across the world! Well maybe not magically attach, but you can pin them on but that doesn’t sound so cool! They come with their own passport (that you can log journeys on via the Facebook page), and a charm that is irresistible. Each crafter who makes the Little Traveller, gives each doll its own character. Ally wears hers with pride.

Little Traveller Woza Moya

The Little Travellers


Volunteer and paid workers sort Little Travellers for export

Volunteers and Paid Workers sorting the Little Travellers for export


The mother of the little traveler

Thandiwe – Mother of the Little Travellers, who sadly passed away but whose legacy lives on


Don’t Miss the Love

Although we had travelled past the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust / Woza Moya several times, it’s easily missed, despite the huge giraffes who are a bit hidden by trees, but once we went into the grounds we were hit with the enormity of the incredible industriousness, love and passion that this project holds, that’s hidden behind an unassuming entrance.


Where to find Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust / Woza Moya

See our Woza Moya part 2 post.


1 Comment
  • Paula Thomson
    Posted at 12:46h, 07 May Reply

    Thank you so much for the wonderful blog I have shared it on our facebook page Woza Noya and friends, . If I could be so bold to ask if you would send us any high res images we could use and credit you. The photos are beautiful. Wow! and that you got Lungi in a photo is a miracle so well done for that. My email is wozamoya@hillaids.org.za only if my request is not too cheeky! Thanks so much again for the beautiful article ,you seemed to just understand and capture the essence. The photo of Thandiwes plaque brought tears to my eyes, as I haven’t thought about her for a long time. Remembering the history reminds me that sometimes we get caught up in the business and forget the people.

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